Saturday, December 29, 2007

Prospects for 2008

2008 looks like being an interesting year. The Dion Fortune seminar at Glastonbury seems set to be a regular annual event and I look forward to being there on Saturday September 6th in company with Alan Richardson, Jim McBride and Mike Harris to continue our investigations into the faery tradition, which proved highly popular and evocative at our last meeting, details of which are now posted on the Company of Avalon website,, where you can also apply for tickets for the 2008 meeting. In keeping with our faery theme we shall also have Wendy Berg on the platform, leader of the Avalon Group, author of the forthcoming Red Tree, White Tree which I have been fortunate enough to have read in manuscript and regard as pretty hot stuff in regard to the faery tradition in Arthurian legend.

I also hope to make a return to old haunts by participating in a residential workshop with R J Stewart and Caitlín Matthews at Hawkwood College on the weekend of 29th/31st August. This is an event limited to those who have already attended a gathering or workshop on the lines of the stellar fire temple work with R J Stewart. For enquiries about course content or student requirements contact Caitlín via or for a booking details or And whether you can attend or not you can find details of advance reading and supportive material at

By that time what may seem to be a new book of mine should have been published in America by Destiny Books under the title Magic and the Power of the Goddess, subtitled Initiation, Worship, and Ritual in the Western Mystery Tradition. Although it is in fact a re-titled new impression of what may already be familiar to some of you as Evoking the Goddess, Initiation, Worship, and the Eternal Feminine in the Western Mysteries (1993) or even in an earlier incarnation as The Rose Cross and the Goddess (1985). Price of the new edition is announced at $14.95, estimated publication date: 15th April 2008. For more details visit the publisher’s web site

On reading it through again I was agreeably surprised to find that, rather than aging, it seems to have increased in significance with the passing of the years. Most people now realise the great challenge that faces us involving the well-being of the Earth. This is commonly expressed in terms of climate change but this is simply the most materialist way of looking at it – entirely from the outside of things. There is an all important inner side to it all – which is linked to the realisation that our planet behaves like a conscious living being. What some of us call the Planetary Being.

In some ways this has been likened to the ancient Greek goddess of the Earth, Gaia, for there has ever been a recognition of the Divine Feminine Principle throughout the ages under different guises. But the intellectual climate of the past 300 years or so, when science and technology have made such great strides, has tended to drive it underground. Now is surely the time to restore the balance, to rediscover the true nature of things and our relationship to them. Then we might find ourselves ready to enter a New Age rather than worry about whether we are going to survive into it!

We need to see ourselves as allies of creation rather than its exploiters. To choose to work in harmony with the natural world. To realise the Earth to be a great Elemental being who provides the means for the generation of life within and upon herself. The forms of life that she nurtures and nourishes includes not only the human race but the animal kingdom in all its forms. And those with a certain degree of inner awareness may realise it also includes the so-called faery realm.

This is something to challenge us in many different ways. It is not enough to confine our interest to purely intellectual speculation or wishful thinking. We must not only believe in the reality of the Goddess and the forms of elemental and spiritual consciousness that make up Her being; we must come to understand and cooperate with them by means of an active and enlightened imagination.

By creative work with traditional images we can awaken and realign our energies. We can free up our preconditioned energy patterns and begin to work within a framework of realisation that holds great potential for inner transformation. For we literally imagine ourselves into being what we are. And it is through a culture of organised greed, indifference to others, and materialistic blindness, that we have imagined ourselves into a feeling of antagonistic isolation, alone and unloved in an alien universe.

Yet if we use our imagination to open ourselves to the hidden glory that surrounds us we can discover this sense of isolation to be an illusion. We can then discover a world of many beings and many realities. And by working with the light and power within the Earth, which throughout history has typically been revealed in feminine imagery, we may open ourselves to energies inherent in an Otherworld through which remarkable changes can occur. Not only to ourselves but to the world at large. In Magic and the Power of the Goddess I hope to have given various indicators to light your way.

The printed word is however not the only way of spreading light and wisdom and indeed the joy of living. I have mentioned the means of song before by reference to my daughter Rebsie Fairholm and to Magic Folk led by my friends Ben & Michelle Glover. You do not have to take my word entirely for it, for a couple of enthusiastic reviews have recently appeared, which I quote below.

With regard to the Magicfolk debut album, which includes Heliopolis, Persephone and Sea Priestess (based on the Dion Fortune novel), Tim Carroll of FolkWords writes “A raft of magical spells – fantastic flights of musical and lyrical fancy mixed with a touch of pagan lore, medieval storytelling and a gentle otherworldly air. Magicfolk blend tantalisingly delicate music with wistful poetic meandering lyrics. If you want to slide off this planet with all its cares and go somewhere mysterious listen to Magicfolk. Ben and Michelle write music that acts like mental balm – soothing and revitalising.” You can hear sound clips and buy online at

As regards Rebsie Fairholm’s album, Mind the Gap, (the gap referred to exists between the worlds!), the prestigious magazine Organ writes: “An absolutely wonderful album’s worth of entrancing whispered glowing heart-warming Celtic/Old English (pagan?) folk, embroidered with cleverly delicate instrumentation. Lush golden strings and seductive woodwind, haunting glowing beauty and Rebsie has the most beguiling of voices – she really is something special. Just beautiful, uncluttered, refreshing. Delicately arranged folk familiars (and a beautiful version of Pink Floyd’s Julia Dream). Calming, uplifting, ethereal and a slightly new feel on something very traditional and unashamedly rooted in very old ways – for fans, followers and lovers of Fairport Convention, Sandy Denny, the leaves turning golden orange and the Albion spirit that can still be found, (beautiful artwork as well).”
And you can hear sound clips and buy online at

2007 saw the publication of two books that seem likely to mark the close of my literary association with Dion Fortune. One was The Arthurian Formula, an important and challenging text that she channelled in 1941 and which was continued by her successor Margaret Lumley Brown. It was originally intended for her close esoteric associates rather than the general public, so I have provided it with an introductory commentary and reader’s guide to help anyone unfamiliar with some of the concepts that she and they took for granted. There now seems nothing more of her unpublished work left for me to edit - it is all now in the public domain. Probably not before time you may think! But the powers and intelligences behind some of this advanced work tend to play a long game.

However one can still talk about some of her achievements. And my other book, The Occult Fiction of Dion Fortune, is my take on how she provided practical esoteric teaching within her short stories and novels. There is a popular saying that truth is stranger than fiction – but with esoteric authors of Dion Fortune’s calibre fiction can be the best possible way to impart certain elements of truth! This began with an opening up of the Portal of the Mysteries with her short stories The Secrets of Dr Taverner and first novel The Demon Lover, that developed into the Mysteries of Sun and Earth in The Winged Bull and The Goat-foot God followed by the Mysteries of Sea and Moon in The Sea Priestess and Moon Magic. All containing elements of practical Qabalah, the theoretical side of which she expounded in her great classic The Mystical Qabalah which has taught more than one generation of students and has been continuously in print since 1935.

Finally may I wish all readers a bright and transcendental 2008!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Glastonbury again - and some magic sounds

Here follows the text of my talk at the 2nd Dion Fortune seminar at Glastonbury this year, an event which, by popular request, seems likely to become a regular event on the esoteric calendar. It was held in the Assembly Rooms, site of the first performance, back in 1914, of The Immortal Hour, the haunting faery operetta by Rutland Boughton based upon lyrics by Fiona McLeod. In Avalon of the Heart Dion Fortune records being present at a performance here, citing it as "a thing never to be forgotten." Indeed the show went on to become enormously successful with an even wider public, indicating that there are other ways of diseminating the secret wisdom other than by the printed word.

With this in mind it seems appropriate to mention the release of two magically evocative CD's recently. One by my multi-talented daughter Rebecca contains some magical songs channelled straight from the English folk muse, and its title Mind the Gap refers to a gap between worlds which it may be best to avoid falling into. Whilst two other musically gifted associates of mine, Michelle and Ben Glover, with their group Magicfolk and a CD of the same name, provide mystically inspired songs in their own blend of esoteric psych-folk.

Web sites to call at for details or a free listen are: and/or

Talk given at Glastonbury, 1st September 2007

Talk by Gareth Knight at 2nd Dion Fortune seminar,
the Assembly Rooms, Glastonbury, 1st September 2007

When we met last year we talked about Dion Fortune’s early work on Glastonbury – Avalon of the Heart. A book in which she cast her net wide. “Two traditions meet in Avalon,” she wrote, “the ancient faith of the Britons and the creed of Christ.”

And that is just the bare bones of it. In pursuit of these traditions she brought in strands that include Merlin, the Graal, Joseph of Arimathea, the old gods upon the Tor, even the lost continent of Atlantis. Indeed, she went on to say: “one cannot help being reminded of the super-circus which had three rings all going on at once, and the poor little boy who became permanently cross-eyed in his endeavours not to miss anything.”

Well I do not want anyone to stagger away from here any more cross eyed than they need. So I propose to concentrate on just one of these rings, the Faery ring if you like! Or more specifically the Faery element in Arthurian tradition.

I first became aware of the importance of the Faery element in Arthurian legend through a script that was produced by Dion Fortune in 1941/2 and elaborated by her successor Margaret Lumley Brown in the 1950’s. This script was known as The Arthurian Formula and it formed a focus for the advanced work of the Fraternity of the Inner Light for more than twenty years.

Something of its contents I was able to incorporate in The Secret Tradition in Arthurian Legend in 1983 but I am glad to say that, thanks to Thoth Publications, The Arthurian Formula itself is now available to all. It is the final volume in a ten year project of Thoth, the Society of the Inner Light and myself, to bring unpublished writings of Dion Fortune into the public domain.

Although this last one, I have to say, is likely to be the most challenging to readers. It was never intended for the general public, but was a document for private study by Dion Fortune’s close associates. So it is a far cry from the gentle ambiance of Avalon of the Heart. It plunges straight in to what I might call the Well of Deep Memory. Not simply to roots in Celtic myth and legend, but further in and further back – to mythopoeic strata that extend far into pre-history and ultimately to that ever recurring dream of ancient civilisations and the dawning of human consciousness.

Dion Fortune and Margaret Lumley Brown were adept at reaching this level by esoteric means, although it has also been done in the sphere of creative writing. In this respect the prime example that comes to mind is J.R.R. Tolkien, whose evocations of Middle Earth, Numenor and the rest under the cloak of fantasy literature run close to much that occultists have come up with independently.

There is also a great deal of Faery lore in Tolkien, not only in The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion but in his monograph On Fairy Stories and his long short story Smith of Wotton Major. And the reason why he, above all fantasy writers, hit these deep levels was, in my view, because he was passionately committed to recreate a lost mythology. And furthermore, as a philologist, he went to it in the deepest possible way, through the avenue of language itself. That is to say he invented an Elvish language and orthography, after which an Elven mythology almost began to write itself.

So we are dealing with deep, deep matters here. In some respects it is like an archaeological dig through layers of group consciousness. At a site moreover that is not neatly stratified, but has been dug over, plundered, and generally messed about with just like any physical archaeological site might be.

And just as archaeologists may be hard put to interpret the significance of what they find, so we can have the same problem in the legendary field.

Let us take the case of Merlin. According to the legends that have come down to us he was conceived in a somewhat unusual manner, having a virgin mother and no discernible father. The Arthurian Formula suggests that he may thus have been a Theosophical Manu of some kind, his conception having taken place perhaps between an Atlantean temple priestess and a powerful Fire Elemental or even an angelic Lord of Flame.

On the other hand, the pious Robert de Boron writing in the early 13th century could not countenance the apparently blasphemous thought of what appeared to be a virgin birth, even if conceived in the womb of a nun. Thus the Otherworldly father had to be cast in the role of an incubus demon, sent by the Devil – whose nefarious plans however were thwarted by the innocent virtue of the pregnant holy maiden under direction of her confessor. Thus the youthful Merlin was diverted from being a false prophet and confirmed his holy credentials by upstaging the magicians of the usurper Vortigern.

The point I wish to make is, that there is not likely to be any “one and only true” interpretation for various events in the panorama of Arthurian legends. We each of us bring to them our own stock of preconceptions. And who is to say which of us is right?

Indeed it is possible for different interpretations, even apparently contradictory ones, to be correct at their own level. There are different levels of meaning, and they make their presence felt in different human generations. And for whatever reason, it is the Faery element in Arthurian tradition that seems to be coming to the fore these days.

In Dion Fortune’s contribution to The Arthurian Formula King Arthur himself is reckoned to have had close relationships with Faery women. And this goes beyond receiving the sword Excalibur from the Lady of the Lake, even though a directly Freudian take on this symbolism might see it as some kind of sexual initiation, to say nothing of Morgan le Fay`s later high jinks with the scabbard.

And there is certainly a dalliance with one of his half-sisters, either Morgan or Morgawse according to which line of tradition one chooses to take. The Arthurian Formula favours Morgan in this respect, who has strong faery connections. She was, after all, known as “le Fay” and was married to Uriens of Gore, reckoned by some to be a faery king. Indeed the faery connection extends to her son Yvain, or Owein, who eventually met his faery bride at a magic fountain and after various adventures became king over her faery lands.

Anyhow, by whichever sister, Arthur incestuously fathered Mordred, which eventually brought about his own downfall and that of his kingdom and of the Round Table fellowship. Thus, according to The Arthurian Formula, confounding Merlin’s original great and cunning plan to found a dynasty of priest kings and queens in Logres, somewhat after the Ancient Egyptian fashion.

According to this account, Merlin looked upon the selective breeding of humans much as humans today look upon the selective breeding of cattle, dogs or horses. And the New Age he envisaged must be realised as being quite an old age by now, even if it had come to pass. Although I suppose the concept of constitutional monarchy is a latter day survival of its assumptions.

Thus Merlin arranged the birth of Arthur from the mating of Uther Pendragon, the current ancient British ruler of the land, and Ygraine of Tintagel, living in the far south west, who, The Arthurian Formula suggests, was of the blood line of the old Atlantean priest kings. Their child Arthur would then be wed to Guenevere, the daughter of King Leodegrance of Cameliard, keeper of the Round Table, bringing with her the Round Table as her dowry.

There is a certain star lore and magic at work behind much of this. Leodegrance, the Great Lion, suggesting the constellation Leo; and Arthur what we now call the Great Bear, or indeed Arthur’s Wain; the Pendragon the constellation of the Dragon that coils around the northern celestial pole; with the Round Table as the surrounding zodiac itself. A life’s work in itself to follow all that up I suspect!

However, The Arthurian Formula follows a more human level of interpretation, suggesting that Arthur and Guenevere’s son and heir would, in the original scheme of things, have been the Grail winner – in other words, Galahad. Whilst Galahad in turn, when he became king, would have wed the daughter of Lancelot of the Lake and the Grail castle maiden, Elaine of Carbonek. Thus establishing a ruling dynasty with a unique mixture of blood lines. Or, as we might prefer to call it today, inherited genes. With ancient British, Atlantean, Faery and Grail connections.

If all this seems to be like the convoluted plot of some kind of cosmic soap opera, bear in mind that it is a meld of ancient traditions that is being taught here, in the guise of a dynastic parable.

As Anna Kingsford, the greatly underrated pioneer of modern western esotericism was wont to teach, many of the characters to be found in the Bible were intended to be understood as archetypal or spiritual principles – not historical persons. Much the same may be applied to aspects of Arthurian legend.

But to return to the scenario of a dysfunctional royal marriage at Camelot, if Arthur preferred the company of faery ladies, Guenevere found her consolation in Lancelot, and as a consequence no royal crown prince Galahad could be born.

Thus Merlin had to devise a Plan B, and with a typical bit of Merlin type magic. Although Lancelot remained devoted to the Queen, with a crafty bit of magical shape shifting, he was induced to have a one night stand with the Grail maiden, Elaine of Carbonek. The realisation of the experience drove him mad for a while but by this means the soul of Galahad was able to be born.

But having displaced his intended bride in the very womb of his mother, he was doomed to a lonely life. And he was brought up, a paragon of dedicated virginity at the Grail Castle, before turning up at Arthur’s court to undertake the Grail Quest. Only once he had won the Grail, both he and it were spirited off to the inner holy land of Sarras, never to be seen again. And presumably we all still live in the consequent Waste Land.

Yet put this in terms of movements and traditions rather than personalities and we have a body of doctrine that suggests that a mis-use of relationships between the human and faery kingdoms aborted the full flowering of both Round Table and Grail traditions. As a result, a monkish veneer has been grafted onto much of it, such as the unlikely story of Lancelot and Guenevere repenting of their sins and ending their days in the religious life, as monk and nun respectively.

But that is not the whole story, for there are other lines of interpretation we can follow, particularly with regard to Guenevere.

It has come to the minds of certain respected academics, such as Professors Webster, Nitze and Cross to try to account for the number of times that Queen Guenevere has been abducted – which amounts to no less than fourteen!

Even allowing for a possible element of duplication this does seem to be excessive! It has indeed been remarked upon by a number of other commentators, with the general concensus that it probably derives from a Celtic version of the Persephone myth. That Guenevere is a representative of the Spring Maiden who is carried off to the Underworld for six months each year by the Winter King.

Now this interpretation may well be valid at one particular level, but there are elements that suggest it is not the whole story. For one thing, Guenevere does not appear to fit this goddess archetype terribly well. And so it has been suggested that a more likely explanation might well be that Queen Guenevere was not a human queen at all - but a Faery!

Startling as this premise may sound, once it is accepted much else falls into place. For example, the usual translation of the name Guenevere as “white shadow” or “white phantom” does not describe a pale ineffectual human being but a shining faery. An accurate description of how the white light of the faery world shines bright and clear through the physical form which she, and others of her kind, must adopt if they are to exist within the human dimension. A consequence of the tradition of faery blood being a radiant white as opposed to the more sluggish human red.
And why was she fetched from her father’s house to Camelot by Lancelot? Was it because he was a knight who already had one foot in the faery world through his fostership by the Lady of the Lake, who had seized him as a child? What is more, if she were a faery princess, she might well have been already betrothed to a faery lord. In which case her abductions might well be attempts by the Faery world to get her back.

Indeed we can see in all of this a startling parallel with the situation in The Immortal Hour, based upon the ancient Irish myth that inspired Rutland Boughton and Fiona McLeod. There it is Etain who is a faery who finds herself a queen in the human world, married to the human king Eochaid the High King of Ireland, and who is eventually taken back to Faeryland by her faery husband Midir.

However, whilst professional Arthurian scholars may be content to leave things there, as an academic hypothesis, if this contention is true it raises profound esoteric issues that reverberate through the whole of Arthurian tradition.

For if Guenevere is a faery amongst humans, and married to the human King Arthur, the relationship between human and faery realms lies at the very core of the Arthurian stories. Their marriage bridges two different worlds of reality in a way that effects both kingdoms of human and faery. Thus many of the Arthurian stories can be looked upon as the record of attempts to explore and heal the relationship between the two races which inhabit the earth, faery and human.

Some of these issues, and more besides, have been taken up by Wendy Berg, in a book entitled Red Tree, White Tree, which is in course of production by Thoth Publications and I recommend you look to out for it. In the meantime you can find a summary of it as an Appendix to The Arthurian Formula, or serialised in the latest two issues of The Inner Light Journal. [Spring and Summer 2007].

Taking this line of thought a little further it has occurred to me that it may not only have been Queen Guenevere or the Lady of the Lake or the likes of Morgan le Fay who are representative of the world of Faery in Arthurian legend. Time and again we find it is a maiden who lures a knight out onto a quest, often guiding him in the way, overseeing his various tests, and being quite sharp tongued about it too on occasion. And as to the nature of these quests, whatever the apparent reason for them, (rescuing a damsel in distress or whatever), there are common elements within them that suggest they are adventures into Faeryland. That is to say, the quest is a form of initiation into Faeryland.

With this in mind I began a close analysis of the works of the first Arthurian romancer, Chrétien de Troyes. In long verse romances he covered the stories of Erec, of Yvain, of Lancelot, and of the Graal, the last being a double length feature in which Gawain as well as Perceval appears as a Grail hero.

What is clearly evident from Chrétien’s romances is that there was amongst the French aristocracy for whom he wrote, still a quite widely held belief in Faery. And whilst he prides himself with being something of a sophisticated 12th century man of the world, a bit above really believing in such things, nonetheless he and his audience are fascinated by it all. And so it is all still there, thinly covered by a naturalistic veneer.

Even though the stories may be ostensibly concerned with promoting ideals of chivalrous and courtly behaviour, at a relatively barbarous time when such virtues were eminently needed, nonetheless the faeries keep popping out of the woodwork – or out of the green wood that is the Forest of Broceliande.

Let us take his first Arthurian romance, that of Erec and Enide, which may be more familiar to some of you as Geraint and Enid in The Mabinogion. There is a great deal to suggest, although it is never explicitly stated, that Enide herself is a faery.

She is the daughter of an hospitable host, an archetypal figure with a beautiful daughter who is invariably found on the outer margins of Faeryland, and who often provides the hero with arms or horse for his quest, and in this case with his daughter Enide. Having been proven the most beautiful woman in the land, when Erec eventually takes her to Arthur’s court, she is the very essence an Otherworldly figure – fabulously gorgeous, in clothes of an ancient cut, all of them white, the faery colour, with a hawk upon her wrist, and riding a remarkable steed.

And as Caitlín Matthews has perceptively shown in her work on the Mabinogion version, in Arthur and the Sovereignty of Britain, Enide is no less than a surrogate for the Queen herself. But if Guenevere is in fact a Faery, what is more likely than for her surrogate to be one too?

Yet all this is just the prologue to the main part of the romance, when Erec, stung by the accusation that he is so besotted by Enide that he has forgotten how to fight, drags her off in a series of wild adventures, to prove himself very much the macho hero.

But on a closer reading he is by no means the dominating character that one might think. On the contrary all the initiative comes from her. By a series of feminine wiles it is she who provokes him into going off into these adventures, and they are plainly into the Otherworld.

First off there is a battle at a ford, the usual border between two worlds. Then comes a meeting up with an hospitable host in the form of a squire who feeds them and puts them up at an inn. This is followed by the need for Erec to fight off a lord who fancies Enide for himself, in what seems to me the typical reaction a faery lord might have in seeing one of his own kind being dragged around Faeryland by a human adventurer.

Then follows a testing confrontation with a diminutive but very powerful opponent Guivret le Petit, who appears to be a king of faery kings and contrives for their fight to become a draw. There is then the option for Erec to befriend and stay with the little king or alternatively to return to Arthur’s court, which is currently encamped in the forest. But he is drawn to an ever deeper Otherworldly test and adventure, when, after a confrontation with primitive giants he apparently dies and meets with the Count of Limors, a thinly disguised figure of Death, whom he overcomes and presumably his own physical mortality.

After this he is fitted to go on to the supreme test of fighting a faery guardian in an enchanted garden, and to blow a horn that hangs from an apple tree that disperses all evil enchantment – to universal joy. Then nothing remains but to be done but to go cross the sea to Brittany to undergo a double coronation, with Enide as his queen, to rule jointly over their lands. An epitome of a faery and human royal alliance.

That is just the first of Chrétien’s romances. I could go on, as indeed I intend to do, in the book I am currently writing, entitled The Faery Gates of Avalon.

However the stuff is all there for you to read for yourselves, and all you need is to be alert to what is of otherworldly origin in tales that have been partly secularised, where they have not been ecclesiasticised, by later writers.

So bear in mind that in the stories of the Knights of the Round Table, it may well be the ladies who are at least as important as the knights, of whom they are the awakeners, the initiators, the testers, the guides, and faery companions.

And in a strange way this also has a bearing upon the legends of the Grail. The point being that the Grail hallows, like King Arthur’s sword and its scabbard, originated in the faery world. Excalibur was a gift to Arthur from the Lady of the Lake and to her it had to be returned before he could be taken to Avalon in the faery barge to be cured of his grievous wound. Similarly the Grail hallows originate in a mysterious castle that is hard to find, that is capable of appearing and disappearing, upon the other side of a river bordering a lake.

Percival, whose original Grail was a dish, never did find it in Chrétien’s original tale. Whilst Gawain’s quest for other hallows, according to Chrétien, led into obvious faery realms involving a chess board castle, an apparently malevolent maiden who tests him in diverse ways, a remarkable ferryman who takes him to an island, and a castle of maidens or female ancestors, ruled by none other than his maternal grandmother, Ygraine, where further tests await him to see if he is fit to be their guardian.

All this is not to gainsay the relevance of the Christianisation of the Grail into a chalice or a cup of the Last Supper, and its being spirited off to Sarras, apparently the inner side of the Holy Land, in the Ship of Solomon. For when, in another body of legend, Joseph of Arimathea comes to Glastonbury, was he returning the Grail hallows to the place whence they had originated? Indeed what is the significance of his cruets of white and red? Ostensibly they are from the body of the Saviour. But are they also emblematic of faery as well as human blood?

And is there a talismanic connection with the waters that run red and white between the Tor and Chalice Hill?

Who knows?

One does not often come upon an association of the Faery world with the Christian, although when Dion Fortune and her friends experienced a remarkable contact on the Tor at Whitsun in 1926, (the one that brought them the Chant of the Elements that begins: The Wind and the Fire work on the hill - the Wind and the Fire work on the hill - and so on), it concluded with a very strangely Christian evocation:

Awaken and come, awaken and come, awaken and come.
Come from the depths of your Elemental Being and lighten our darkness.
Come in the name of the White Christ and the Hosts of the Elements.
Come at our bidding and serve with us the One Name above all Names,
the Lover of men and of the Elemental Peoples.
The Great Name – of JEHOSHUA – JESUS.
He who said as he descended into the Underworld:
There shall be no night where my people are –
And the night shall be as day in the light of the eternal fire –
And there shall be peace where my people are –
The peace of the heights above the winds.
And there shall be purity.
Fire and Air – Fire and Air –
For Power to serve the Master.

Who is this White Christ they mention? Is it their vision of the Second Person of the Trinity at the time of the Incarnation? I don’t know. But it is enough to stretch the parameters of belief of orthodox Christian and traditional neo-pagan alike.

And it gives point to Dion Fortune’s remark that I quoted at the beginning, that “Two traditions meet in Avalon, the ancient faith of the Britons and the creed of Christ.”

So let us also recall what she also said about the little boy and the super-circus. It is all a very challenging spectacle.

And if, like a knight of Arthurian legend, you should think about undertaking a personal quest into this territory beyond the material veil, or seek a Faery to guide you there, you must be prepared to be tested and surprised, and try to take in all that you may meet.

Even at the cost of ending up cross eyed. Whether you end up contemplating the Cross of the Elemental Kingdoms, or the Cross of Christ. Or that which partakes of them both, the Cross of Christian Rosencreutz, in a tangle of roses of red and of white.

Perhaps however the best way forward is to seek a particular cross roads, that can be found in vision, where roads from north and south and east and west, not forgetting the above and below, meet in what has been described as a Well of Light. And here I can do no better than to refer you to a recent book by R.J.Stewart of the same name, [The Well of Light, R J Stewart Books,, including CD] which will give you all the directions you need for getting there.

There, where roses of red and of white may be seen to bloom, is the focus for a way of healing the wounded relationship between the human race and the planet. Where faery healing becomes earth healing, as well as a highly transformative and deeply rewarding personal spiritual path. And it comes about by cultivating a working relationship with the inner forces of the land or region in which you live. So what more important to think about than in our meeting today at Glastonbury?

In all of this I have tried to show you how the Arthurian legends, as part of what has been called “The Matter of Britain” may play a part. This depends of course on our reading them aright. Which may well be the case if we do so in the spirit of a well tested prayer and invocation:

“With us is the Grace of the Shining Ones in the Mystery of Earth Light. Peace to all Signs and Shadows, Radiant Light to all Ways of Darkness, and the Living One of Light, Secret Unknown, Forever.”

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Anna Kingsford and Dion Fortune

Anna Kingsford (1846-1888) and Dion Fortune (1890-1946) were remarkable esoteric teachers and campaigners of succeeding generations, with certain odd parallels in their lives, not that there is any suggestion of a reincarnational link. New biographies have recently appeared for each of them, that are worth a place on anybody’s bookshelf.

Priestess: the Life and Magic of Dion Fortune
By Alan Richardson (Thoth Publications 2007) ISBN 978-1-870450-11-9

Alan Richardson is the pioneer of all Dion Fortune biographers and this is a revised edition of his first attempt back in 1987, when he was faced with the unenviable task of making bricks without very much straw and was obliged to quote large chunks out of Psychic Self Defence, which is perhaps the closest Dion Fortune ever got to autobiography.

However, over the last twenty years others have joined the fray - including myself, my old Inner Light companion, Alan Adams (under the pen name of Charles Fielding), and the intrepid American questor Janine Chapman. As Alan Richardson remarks, we have all taken bits and pieces from each other, and will no doubt continue to do so, but it now seems likely that, for better or for worse, there is little more to be said. Yet it seems to me that no single one of us has been able to provide a fully rounded portrait of the woman and her work; we each have our limitations.

In The Story of Dion Fortune it is a pity that Alan Adams was not able to correct some of the well intentioned inaccuracies inserted by his co-author and financial patron Carr P. Collins Jnr. who liked to portray things as he thought people would like them to be rather than as they were. (A dear man and a generous one, none the less.) However Alan Adams did live long enough to produce a foreword to the Thoth Publications edition indicating some of the gaffes to look out for; and as it stands Fielding and Collins give the best account of the actions and intentions of the Guild of the Master Jesus, a much neglected aspect of Dion Fortune’s work.

Janine Chapman’s Quest for Dion Fortune never pretended to be a full length biography, but simply a quest for what remained of DF in the memory of a number of old Inner Lighters, including W.E.Butler. Her effort was savaged somewhat within the pages of this Journal, and rather churlishly I thought, simply perhaps for what may have seemed an over-ambitious title. It nonetheless contains some gems of reminiscence without which we would all be the poorer.

Alan Richardson envies my apparent unlimited access to the archives of the Society of the Inner Light, yet despite having the advantage of being an inside job, Dion Fortune and the Inner Light lacks for many people a broader perspective. Indeed one disappointed reader claimed that it is not a proper biography. Nor is it, if the struggles of a human personality to the challenges of life is the main level of interest. It is more in the nature of the magical record of an important occultist’s esoteric career.

Alan Richardson’s Priestess probably goes closest to being a biography in the usual sense. It does not lack for human interest and as well as being a biographer of considerable talent and readability, he has a well developed esoteric sense, which is all too rare in commentators upon the occult scene.

One of his techniques is, like Jeanine Chapman, conversation with old timers, which can provide illuminating perspectives on things past, although one has to bear in mind that they too had their limitations of perspective on what was going on around them, and there is a shifting boundary between hard evidence, contemporary gossip, and even the settling of old scores. I fancy that Christine Hartley (née Campbell-Thompson) had a bit of a down on W.K.Creasy for one reason or another, whether justified or not we shall probably never know. Oddly enough, both were admitted to the Fraternity on the very same day, 27th February 1934, the initiating magus being Colonel C.R.F.Seymour. I don’t know if Alan Richardson knew that, or even if it is relevant, but there is perhaps a case for Alan Richardson being given a free run of the archives in the event of a third edition.

Another point of caution is Alan’s fondness for searching for fact in Dion Fortune’s fiction. I tended to think that in the first edition this was a means of filling space in the lack of hard biographic material. However he obviously likes the game as he is still at it, seeking pen portraits of her acquaintances, self revelations or glimpses of relationships she might have had or have wished to have in snippets from her novels. This is admittedly a fascinating speculative literary game as long as we remember that it is only speculation, and may be as revealing of the speculator as the intended subject of analysis. Much imaginative writing is indeed ultimately drawn from life, but usually in such a piecemeal and composite fashion that I have never been a believer that one could deduce a portrait of the goose from the golden eggs it lays.

However with the benefit of what he has been able to glean from the rest of us Alan Richardson’s new edition is a much improved and welcome piece of work. And insofar as it paints a broad picture of the esoteric scene, from the early Theosophists and the redoubtable Anna Kingsford through to the present, Priestess is likely to remain the staple introduction to Dion Fortune for members of the general public as well as being of great interest to the more esoterically committed.

Red Cactus: the Life of Anna Kingsford
By Alan Pert (Books & Writers Network 2006) ISBN 978-1-740180-5-2
[UK distributor:]

Anna Kingsford is one of the most fascinating and charismatic of all characters who have graced the western esoteric tradition. She was the inspiration of many of her contemporaries, including MacGregor Mathers, who acknowledged as much in his major work “The Kabbalah Unveiled”. Indeed it is possible that the famous Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn would never have come to birth if she had lived, but would have been subsumed within the Hermetic Society that she founded in 1884, only for it to wither away after her tragically premature death at the age of 41 in 1888.

Today she is remembered more for her work in the field of animal rights, particularly anti-vivisection and vegetarianism of which she was a passionate advocate. Yet her exposition of esoteric philosophy, The Perfect Way, and the record of her illuminations, posthumously published as Clothed with the Sun, are both classic Hermetic texts.

To write the story of Anna Kingsford might seem a relatively straightforward task as it already seems to have been done, and at great length, in 1896, by her esoteric colleague Edward Maitland in his Anna Kingsford: Her Life, Letters, Diary and Work. Thus at first sight it seems no more than a question of editing Maitland’s two weighty volumes of late Victorian prolixity down to reasonable and relevant proportions. So it appeared to Alan Pert at first. And indeed to me.

Alas, things are not so simple. For the question remains how far Maitland can be trusted in all he has said. This is not a question that is easy to answer with any accuracy, for after writing his great tome, by accident or intention Maitland destroyed all her diaries and correspondence.

In his own approach to the problem Alan Pert comes down pretty heavily against Maitland , and not without reason. Whether he has come down too heavily or not enough is likely to be a matter of discussion.

As far as Alan Pert is concerned, Maitland’s unreliability is self evident from the way that, despite his apparent adulation of Anna Kingsford, Maitland subtly does her down in ways that are at odds with her perceived character. A principal example of this being the allegation that in her horror at the actions of contemporary vivisectionists, including Louis Pasteur, she was driven to try to kill them by occult means. To Alan Pert such a suggestion, given her lofty character and high principles, is self evidently ludicrous.

But to support this intuitive assessment we needs must have some kind of supporting evidence, either in the witness of contemporaries who knew them both, or, in the lack of manuscript material by Anna Kingsford, other writings by Edward Maitland.

The latter, it has to be said, are not an easy read, but I can claim to be one of the few, along with Alan Pert, to have attempted the task, for I did at one time also contemplate writing an up-date on Anna Kingsford, and as preparation read most of Maitland’s literary work, along with books that he said had influenced him. It was a wild and woolly scenic ride through early Victorian romanticism, and had its fascinating and invigorating moments, including Emerson, Lord Lytton, Southey’s “Thalaba the Destroyer”, Charlotte Bronte, the now obscure Abraham Tucker and the now unheard of Philip James Bailey, whose “Festus” is a vast cosmological drama in verse.

Maitland cites these in The Pilgrim and the Shrine, his promising first novel which is largely autobiographical, containing an account of his youthful adventures in the West Indies, the 1849 California gold rush, and thence via the Pacific Islands to Australia to seek a fortune in the gold mines of New South Wales. However, once arrived in the antipodes the novel begins to lose its pace and grip and devolves into rather tedious metaphysical discussion, a trend to which he had been intermittently prone in earlier pages.

His next novel By-and-By: an Historical Romance of the Future continued this trend, although as a utopian metaphysical science fiction novel it could have been a great idea at the time, even foreshadowing Jules Verne, it suffers from a cloying sentimentality, and his view of womanhood is quite bizarre, a kind of submissive and not very bright angel being his ideal of femininity. It is thus surprising that he claims it was Anna Kingsford’s admiration for this novel that caused her to get in touch with him, for it contains material very much at odds with her feminist principles. Indeed he admits to her saying that at first reading she had flung it down in disgust – but this apparently because she saw elements of herself in his heroine! Make of this what we may.

It seems that his publishers encouraged him to abandon fiction after this but his non-fictional work England and Islam becomes at times quite off the wall. It is a political diatribe that began as a letter to “The Times” but developed into a lengthy volume, dashed off in six weeks, that he felt had almost divine authority, because parts of it were written under spirit guidance, his fingers at times being controlled as he worked at the typewriter.

That his publishers accepted it is surprising, although it may have seemed topically opportune, as dealing with current concern over possible war with either Russia or Turkey. That his family considered it as grounds for having him mentally certified seems not unreasonable, although he considered this to have been sectarian bigotry on their part that was fortunately thwarted by psychic intervention.

He later confessed that the work had probably destroyed his literary reputation, such as it then was, but having met Anna Kingsford he now brought out The Soul and How it Found Me, a book recording the mystical effect of their association upon his inner life. It found few readers outside of the spiritualist movement and on strong representations from Anna Kingsford was withdrawn from publication. Although she was not mentioned by name in it, it was evidently doing her reputation no good at all. Maitland bought in all the remaining stock and had it destroyed, but vowed to use the material in his eventual book on Anna Kingsford.

Over this, of course, the great biography, she was no longer able to lay a restraining hand, and it is larded with detailed accounts of his visits to mediums along with personal psychic experiences, together with the assumption that he and Anna were co-founders of a new religious dispensation – buttressed by his conviction of having been no less than St. John in a previous life, the beloved disciple of Jesus and author of Revelations.

Indeed the conclusion seems to be that Edward Maitland, sincere and harmless old buffer though he may have appeared to be, was in serious need of help and something of a menace to the reputation of Anna Kingsford. Should there be any doubt in the matter it seems sufficient to study just the last chapter of his life of Anna Kingsford, entitled “Post Mortem”, and in particular the very last paragraph of the book:

While writing I was suddenly seized with a strong desire to exchange supposition for positive assurance in regard to my identity with John; and looking up from my writing, I mentally put the question as to my own inmost self, being, as was my invariable wont, absolutely calm and collected, and without the smallest expectation of a response: “May I be quite certain of the reality of my seeming recollections of having been John the Evangelist and Seer, and that I am truly a reincarnation of the soul that was in him?” The response to this question came with an instantaneousness and force which seemed to imply that the question had been prompted and expected in order to make answer to it, there being no moment of delay to suggest the need of the arrival of anyone to answer it. It was electric for its swiftness, vividness, and intensity, and seemed to radiate from the very centre of my system to its farthest extremities, and it consisted in a mighty “YES,” which appealed to every sense at once, being alike heard, seen, and felt. And when the sensation had passed away and the tones of the utterance had ceased to vibrate, I found myself perfectly content and satisfied, and undesirous of further assurance. The answer seemed to be intended as a final and conclusive reply, to seek beyond which would be to exhibit a distrust wholly without excuse in view of the history, relations, experiences, and achievements in which it had been given me to bear part.

In this is encapsulated much of the self deception and grandiose self regard of which Edward Maitland seemed capable, and which begs one to question how much of his previous 884 pages can be regarded as reliable, to say nothing of his editing of her Illuminations. The tragedy is that his appropriation of the legacy of Anna Kingsford has tended to make her an object of neglect and misunderstanding, and is perhaps why Anna Kingsford is remembered more for her vegetarian and anti-vivisection causes than for the remarkable seer that she undoubtedly was.

It is to be hoped that Alan Pert’s serviceable and competent biography will do something to put this right, having brought new material to light, including the witness of close contemporaries such as Anna Kingsford’s friend Florence Miller. Regrettably, perhaps too much emphasis has had to be taken up in the book (as in this review) with Edward Maitland`s shortcomings rather than Anna Kingsford’s remarkable qualities.

“Red Cactus” was an emblem said, in one of her Illuminations, appropriately to represent her, the cactus being an organism that causes the desert to bloom. The high regard in which she was held by her contemporaries seems witness to this. Alan Pert has performed a useful service in providing us with a succinct and accurate record of her outer life. It perhaps remains for the gist of her inner life and esoteric teaching to be presented in systematic and modern terms, for the importance of much that she taught and realised has barely been appreciated even today.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Midsummer message 2007

A pleasant midsummer surprise has been to receive copies of my new little book THE OCCULT FICTION OF DION FORTUNE just issued by Thoth Publications.

Dion Fortune is recognised as one of the most influential figures in 20th century occultism and her books on various aspects of the occult tradition are now enjoying a much deserved reappraisal. Her works of fiction are highly acclaimed both as vehicles for presenting complex magical and psychical theory and as remarkably powerful pieces of genre literature. Most are still in print thanks to Red Wheel/Weiser in the United States.

As a life long student of her work I have here tried to provide an overview of all her occult fiction, including her early work, The Secrets of Dr Taverner, a series of short stories based upon the approach of her early teacher Dr Theodore Moriarty to methods of esoteric healing, and The Demon Lover, a blood and thunder thriller of black magic and vampirism that developed in the writing into a story of initiation and redemption through love.

In her later novels Dion Fortune began deliberately to use fiction as a means of practical teaching. While she had presented the theory of occultism in her great work The Mystical Qabalah, it was through her works of fiction that she sought to provide manuals for putting it into practice, at a time when much of this material was considered highly secret and to be revealed to initiates only.

I hope that I have now provided a clear guide on how and where to look for this practical instruction in these later novels, which comprise The Goat-foot God, an evocation of Earth Mysteries and the Rite of Pan; The Winged Bull, with its polar Mysteries of Sun and Earth; The Sea Priestess, celebrating the Mysteries of the Moon; and the posthumously published Moon Magic that takes them to a higher arc with the setting up of a temple dedicated to Isis.

Many aspects of occultism receive practical attention in her pages, including place memories, karmic elements from past incarnations, animal magnetism, ley lines, sacred centres, techniques of ritual, and above all the working out of right relationships between the sexes in polar interchange.

An additional bonus for me has been the evocative cover design provided by Helen Surman, an impression of the Sea Priestess with her fire of Azrael, invoking the horned heavenly Isis who strides across the sky with her feet upon the waters of Bridgewater Bay, close to the actual physical location of Dion Fortune's novel.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Spring message 2007

Just a year ago I was setting out on a series of four public talks to mark the sixtieth anniversary of Dion Fortune's departure from the physical plane, the texts of which you can find displayed on this website and also on the Company of Avalon website along with other details of the Dion Fortune "Avalon of the Heart" seminar that we held at Glastonbury town hall. This last attracted greater interest than we expected and so regrettably some people had to be turned away, so in organising a similar event for Saturday, September 1st 2007 a larger venue has been hired, at the Glastonbury Assembly Rooms.

This is the place where Dion Fortune spoke of being much moved by a performance of Rutland Boughton and Fiona McLeod's faery epic "The Immortal Hour" back in 1920. So our theme this year will explore the understanding of the world of faery held by Dion Fortune and her fellow Avalonians ... and successors. Programme details and how to book for it can be found on the Company of Avalon website:

For anyone seeking a broader perspective to Dion Fortune's place in the scheme of things Mike Harris will also be laying on a weekend workshop at Hawkwood College from June 15th to 17th entitled "Dion Fortune and the Western Tradition". For details of that and how to book consult the Hawkwood College website

Whilst as a special opportunity for anyone of reasonable experience Mike has also been able to arrange a series of practical workings at a location at the foot of the Tor on the weekends of July 13th -15th, August 17th - 19th, and September 7th - 9th. Access to these will be limited in terms of numbers and suitability of those wishing to become involved. For more details consult Mike Harris on

I have over the past ten years been dedicated to bringing out previously unobtainable works by Dion Fortune through the good offices of Thoth Publications and the end of last year saw the final one of these, and perhaps the most evocative. This was "The Arthurian Formula", a script that was brought through by Dion Fortune as far back as 1941/2 and which was elaborated by her successor Margaret Lumley Brown and which formed the staple of advanced work in the Society of the Inner Light for some twenty years. I used it as the basis of a public workshop at Hawkwood College in 1981 with quite remarkable results that have their ramifications even today.

It is a heady mix of a number of traditions that feed into the Arthurian legend, from Atlantean and Celtic Faery lore to the Troubadour Minstrelsy and the Cult of Queen Venus. I have taken the opportunity to include a guide to recent academic and esoteric scholarship and to incorporate a remarkable perspective on Queen Gwenevere and the Faery and Grail traditions by Wendy Berg. This is a foretaste of her complete manuscript "Red Tree, White Tree" which is also due from Thoth Publications. For details of this and other exciting forthcoming items, including my own overview of "The Magical Fiction of Dion Fortune" go to the Thoth website:

In the meantime I look forward to meeting some of you again at Glastonbury on September 1st.